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Vince Gilligan and wife Holly Rice have traveled far and wide to see Bryan Cranston on stage. They’ve seen him tackle both Network and All the Way on Broadway, traveled to London for more Network, and made the trek to Westwood when he starred in The God of Hell. The latter production, staged at Geffen Playhouse in 2005, even came before Gilligan and Cranston teamed on the iconic series Breaking Bad.
“We go to the ends to watch Bryan perform because there’s something special about seeing it happen live,” Gilligan told The Hollywood Reporter while standing next to Rice in the Geffen lobby Thursday night. The pair was back in the building (with seats in the fifth row) to catch the opening night production of Power of Sail. “I’m used to seeing him on set doing one scene over and over again, but getting the chance to see him alongside these wonderful actors for almost two hours straight — it’s amazing. I mean, how in the hell do they remember all those lines?”
It’s a fair question and perhaps one shared by the sold-out crowd inside the Gil Cates Theatre, a sea of attendees that included notable names James Franco, Andy Garcia, Katie Couric, Elisabeth Shue, Davis Guggenheim, Tyne Daly and Annie Potts, among others. Especially considering the play’s sensitive subject matter.
Power of Sail — written by Paul Grellong, directed by Weyni Mengesha and produced by Daryl Roth — stars Cranston alongside Amy Brenneman, Seth Numrich, Brandon Scott, Tedra Millan, Donna Simone Johnson and Hugo Armstrong. The story sets its sights on distinguished Harvard professor Charles Nichols (Cranston) who stirs the pot by inviting an incendiary white nationalist to speak at his revered annual symposium. Students revolt while the dean (Brenneman) tries to manage the situation as current and former students (Numrich, Scott and Millan) get caught up in the storm.
“I loved it,” Gilligan offered of his response. “Boy, it’s a very challenging play and it’s a lot of food for thought that I’m still digesting. It kept me guessing at every turn and I did not see a lot of those plot points coming. I was just impressed by the acting — all of the actors are wonderful. I’m biased for Bryan — I’m in the tank for him — but he never fails to surprise me. He is so wonderful. Every time I think I’m used to seeing the amazing performances he gives, he always surprises me.”
Rice, who happens to be a Geffen board member, was equally impressed while also cheering at the sight of seeing so many bodies in the building for an in-person production on a celebratory opening night, sponsored by City National Bank, UCLA Health and STK, host of the after-party. “It means a great deal to us because we’ve all been looking forward to this tonight, to see a full stage and a full audience,” Rice explained. “The Geffen really is a family and so it’s nice to be together again. Also, I delighted that [Bryan and the cast] brought the director and writer to the stage.”
Rice was referring to curtain call when, after taking a final bow, Cranston addressed the audience. “Thank you for coming tonight. We’re really appreciative of [having] a live audience,” he said. “It’s been a great experience for all of us. I just wanted to say thank you to the rest of the cast and all our crew. I would love to be able to bring up on stage, our director and our writer.”
The audience erupted with a huge applause and Grellong and Mengesha made their way to center stage. Cranston joked that he would have presented them with flowers that he meant to purchase earlier in the day but didn’t. In lieu, he offered more gratitude: “Thank you very much for supporting live theater.”
While he may have forgotten the flowers, he did not forget any lines and for that, Gilligan said he deserves many pats on the back. “I get nervous for him. I was thinking about it while we were having drinks in the lobby. What’s he going through? What are all the actors going through backstage? Are they nervous as hell? I was nervous for them. I could picture myself going out there and then forgetting everything. That’s why I’ll never do that. No one’s asking me, by the way.”
Power of Sail is in performances through March 20.
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